Two early career researchers awarded Pew grants

Temprana and Saijo

Postdoc Silvio Temprana and assistant professor Kaoru Saijo received research grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Temprana photo by Ken Li. Saijo photo by Mark Hanson of Mark Joseph Studios.

Two young UC Berkeley biomedical scientists received awards last week from the Pew Charitable Trusts to support their research on the brain.

Kaoru Saijo, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology, will receive a four-year grant to investigate the role of the brain’s immune cells, called microglia, in the development of depression. Saijo will seek to determine whether mutations that alter gene activity in microglia lead to a sustained inflammatory response in the brain, whether such changes take place in mouse models of depression and whether they affect males and females differently. This may someday lead to new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of neurological diseases in humans.

Saijo was one of 22 early career researchers selected because they have “demonstrated the curiosity and courage that drive great scientific advances,” said Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of the Pew Charitable Trusts in a statement. “We are excited to help them fulfill their potential.”

Silvio Temprana of Argentina was named one of 10 Pew Latin American Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences, each of whom will receive two years of funding to conduct research at laboratories and academic institutions in the United States.

The fellows will conduct their research under the mentorship of some of the most distinguished researchers in biomedical science, including alumni of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences. An important element of the program is additional funding provided to awardees who return to Latin America to launch their own research labs after the completion of their fellowships.

Temprana is already at work in the lab of Hillel Adesnik, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology and 2013 Pew biomedical scholar who studies how networks of neurons in the brain encode sensory input in order to drive perception. Temprana plans to manipulate the activity of individual neurons within clusters of networked neurons to determine whether an animal’s perception can be altered. He hopes his findings will deepen current understanding of information processing in the brain and provide insights into how these processes malfunction in disease.

Announcement by the Pew Charitable Trusts